Ohio-Bred Racehorses: A Remarkable Lineage of Victorious Champions

Horse racing prowess comes from all over. Today we take a minute to recognize the legacy of Ohio-bred race horses.

We’re two-thirds of the way through the major American horse racing circuit this season, with the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes already behind us.

Up next is the Belmont Stakes, just under two weeks away on Saturday, June 10.

As of right now, Forte, a colt trained by Todd A. Pletcher, is one of the favorites to win at Belmont, with odds hovering around 3-1. National Treasure, who won the Preakness Stakes, is listed at 6-1, and Kentucky Derby champion Mage isn’t listed. Odds can fluctuate quite a bit from sportsbook to sportsbook, so if you are into wagering don’t forget to do research on the current odds if you are planning to place a bet on any of the upcoming races.

Ohio’s Legacy in Thoroughbred Racing

While their southern neighbors typically take the cake as Kentucky sits at the heart of the American horse racing scene, the Buckeye State has seen its fair share of champion horses foaled over the past century. Just because the Triple Crown dominates the casual racing fan’s consciousness doesn’t mean there aren’t excellent races to keep an eye on throughout the year. For instance, the Best Ohio Series and the Ohio Derby held at Jack ThistleDown Racing just outside of Cleveland are worth mentioning. For those who like to wager, folks from Ohio can now place bets at whichever Ohio Sportsbook they prefer for any future race in the state.

Honoring Ohio’s Thoroughbred racing legacy, here’s a look at some of the best horses to hail from the state of Ohio:

Legendary Ohio-Bred Racehorses

Culpepper: The Trailblazer (1874)

The Buckeye State’s Thoroughbred tradition dates as far back as 1874 when a three-year-old stallion named Culpepper (Revolver-Gentle Annie, Ringgold) won the second edition of the Preakness Stakes. The stallion won another sweepstakes in September of that year, his only other victory accessible in the record books.

Imp: Dominance and Recognition (1898-1900)

1900 Brighton Cup in which Imp (front side) beat Ethelbert (back side). Illustration by Henry Stull/Public Domain.

Moving forward in chronological order, the next famous Thoroughbred from Ohio is Imp (Wagner-Fondling, Fonso), a filly who racked up a whopping 15 victories in three years between 1898 and 1900. Eight of those victories came in 1899 when Imp won honors as the United States Horse of the Year. A descendant of some of the greatest English racing horses to ever live, Imp’s male line of descent included Eclipse, who went a perfect 18-0 in the second half of the 18th century, including 11 King’s Plate wins.

The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame inducted Imp as part of their 1965 class in honor of her run of dominance.

Wintergreen: Triumph and Tragedy (1909)

1909 Kentucky Derby winner Wintergreen. Public Domain.

Next on the list is Wintergreen (Dick Welles – Winter, Exile), the second horse from Ohio to claim a victory in one of the Triple Crown Races. The stallion won the 1909 Kentucky Derby, the lone stakes race of his career (despite a fair share of attempts). Wintergreen’s life ended in tragedy in April 1914 when a fire consumed the barn he was staying at.

Recitation (1980 – 1981)

The next major Thoroughbred from the state of Ohio was Recitation (Elocutionist – Irish Party, Irish Lancer), a stallion foaled in 1978 and sired by 1976 Preakness Stakes winner Elocutionist. Trained by British guru Guy Harwood on the rolling greens of West Sussex, Recitation saw all of his success come across the pond in Europe, where he won four major races (two apiece in the United Kingdom and France) in 1980 and 1981: the Coventry Stakes and the 2,000 Guineas Trial Stakes at Ascot in England, as well as the Grand Critérium (now known as the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardère) and the Poule d’Essai des Poulains in Paris.

Given Recitation’s prestigious heritage (and his own monumental success as a racehorse) he was quickly tabbed as a breeding stallion following the conclusion of his age three racing season, sent back to Kentucky and later Japan. None of his offspring met much success, though.

Harlan’s Holiday: A Triumphant Runner and Sire (2001-2003)

Our last thoroughbred on the list is Harlan’s Holiday (Harlan – Christmas In Aiken, Affirmed), a stallion who won six major races (including three Grade 1 stakes) between 2001 and 2003, entering the 2002 Kentucky Derby as the favorite: a race he finished in seventh.

Harlan’s Holiday continued his second act with a successful stud career, siring Denis of Cork who in 2008 had an excellent Triple Crown season, finishing second in the Belmont Stakes and third at the Kentucky Derby.

Honorable Mention: Shady Character (1995)

Rounding out our list is an honorable mention: Shady Character (Falcon Seelster – Shady Katie, Sydney Hill), a Standardbred pacing Stallion who hailed from Ohio. Born in 1995, Shady Character lit up the racing scene in 1998 when he won two legs of the US Triple Crown Pacing Series, the Little Brown Jug and the Cane Pace.

Like Recitation, Shady Character didn’t have much success as a stud, with his racing record the highlight of his career.